McCollum praised for her achievements for constituents
As we end 2021, I wanted to share with you my reflections on a year of great challenges, disturbing national discord, and some remarkably positive advancement.
So much has happened this year. President Biden and Vice-President Harris were inaugurated in January, a COVID vaccine is approved and available for all Americans, historic federal legislation became law – the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Democrats have been protecting families, workers, and our country’s economic and national security.
For me, 2021 has been a year of new leadership responsibilities. I was asked by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to preside over the U.S. House during the second impeachment of President Trump because of my reputation for fairness. It was a very solemn duty.
House Democrats selected me to chair the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, where I was asked to appropriate $700 billion in funding.
This may be the most progressive defense appropriations bill ever written. My commitment is to protect our troops and their families, prepare for the threat of climate change, close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, and increase critical investments in workforce development, environmental restoration, and cybersecurity. It is an enormous responsibility of national and global significance.
The year started with one of the darkest days in our nation’s history – the January 6th Insurrection. On that day, the U.S. Capitol was violently attacked by domestic terrorists in what only can only be described as a coup attempt. Now we know this pro-Trump mob wanted to prevent Congress from ratifying the results of the Electoral College which determined Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 presidential election.
During those hours of the insurrection, the very heart of our democracy was endangered. All the while President Donald Trump, betraying his oath of office and our nation, offered inspiration and support to the insurrectionists.
As the mob attacked, I was trapped in the Capitol tunnels with a new member of my staff – her second day on the job. We were forced to seek safety, and thankfully found refuge in the office of Senator Tina Smith with one of her staff. The heroics of the Capitol Police and the DC Metropolitan Police saved the day, restored order, and allowed Congress to reconvene later that night to affirm the democratic election of President Biden and Vice President Harris.
The January 6th attack has pushed our nation’s politics and the fundamental nature of our democracy to the brink. It resulted in the second impeachment of President Trump for inciting the insurrection. Subsequently, the U.S. House voted to establish the bipartisan Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol which is uncovering critical information about the involvement of elected officials, senior government officials, political operatives, and extremist groups in plotting and carrying out the insurrection.
The threat to our democracy is very real, and rather than standing with Democrats to protect our nation from lies and political violence, Republicans in Congress and beyond are working to protect the insurrectionists, rewrite election laws across the country to make voting more difficult, and perpetuate the lie that President Trump won the 2020 presidential election.
Meanwhile, Democrats are fighting back – and just as importantly, we are governing this country. To respond the COVID pandemic and the health care, economic, and social crises it inflicted on our nation, Democrats (without a single Republican vote) passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) in February. This law is empowering all levels of government to respond to the COVID crisis. It helps businesses, workers, families, and every community across the country with vital aid to create opportunity and reduce poverty.
In Minnesota, the ARP has provided critical federal support. I am proud of my work to deliver ARP assistance to the Fourth Congressional District.
Here’s some of the funding I helped provide:
- City of St. Paul: $172 million
- City of Woodbury: $6 million
- All 4th Congressional District Cities: $224 million
- Ramsey County: $107 million
- Washington County: $51 million
- 4th Congressional District School Districts: $300 million
Another major legislative milestone of 2021 was the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This long overdue law is a once-in-a-generation investment in our roads, bridges, broadband, and so much more that will make America stronger, safer, healthier, and more successful.
For Minnesota, the investments are significant, with more than $6.8 billion for water infrastructure, roads, and bridges coming to our state. This means jobs for Minnesotans, safer commutes, and a more competitive environment for our state’s businesses.
Three major pieces of priority legislation that the U.S. House passed, I voted for, and now await action in the U.S. Senate are the following:
- George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (H.R. 1280)
- John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4)
- For the People Act of 2021 (H.R. 1)
These three bills are the cornerstone of advancing justice, equity, and fairness in our democratic society. Each of these bills address the racial discrimination that continues to exist in our communities and in our election process. If we want all Americans to fully participate in our society, our economy, and our democracy, then the Senate needs to pass these bills in 2022.
There are four major pieces of legislation I introduced in 2021 that are moving through Congress now:
- The Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act (H.R. 2794) withdraws 234,000 acres in the Superior National Forest from copper-ore mining. I am also working closely with the Biden administration to ensure the best science to protect the 1.1 million acres of pristine federal wilderness in the BWCA.
- The Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative Act (H.R. 4202) protects and restores the Mississippi River from the Minnesota headwaters to the Gulf Delta. Like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, my bill establishes a geographic program that supports a healthier, cleaner river ecosystem, including for drinking water. Also, this bill has a strong environmental justice and racial equity element which sets a new standard for engagement with at risk communities.
- The Carcieri Fix (H.R. 4352) passed the House in December and a U.S. Supreme Court decision which enshrined a two-tiered system for Tribal Nations to take land into trust. One system for Tribal Nations recognized before 1934 and another process for Tribes recognized after 1934. Separate and unequal is discrimination and my bill – which received bipartisan support on passage – is intended to end this unacceptable practice. Now it is time for the U.S. Senate to act and pass H.R. 4352.
- The Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2022 (H.R. 4432) is the bill I have written as Chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. H.R. 4432 funds President Biden’s $715 billion budget request for the Department of Defense. It passed out of the Appropriations Committee in July with the support of every committee Democrat. I am now waiting for negotiations with Senate appropriators to start so we can agree on a final bill that will likely be included in a fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill.
A lot has happened this year, as you can see. A few other quick highlights:
In November, I was in Scotland as part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s official delegation to the United Nations Climate Summit (COP26) where I met with President Obama, former Secretary John Kerry, and a number of Minnesota climate leaders.
A few weeks later, I joined President Biden on Air Force One as we traveled back to Minnesota for an exciting infrastructure event in Rosemount highlighting all the ways the new infrastructure law will benefit our Minnesota communities.
I appreciated my time with the President. He is leading our nation with dignity, focus, and determination as he faces so many serious challenges. I look forward to continuing to work with him to advance the Build Back Better agenda.
Finally, I’d like to recognize that we have now marked over 800,000 COVID deaths in the United States, including over 10,000 in Minnesota. This pandemic has inflicted so much pain and suffering on families that the human and economic toll can barely be calculated. But we must persevere. We must care for one another. We must get vaccinated and boosted and do everything we can to prevent the spread of this disease so we can defeat COVID.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Congress. My work is a reflection of my Minnesota values and the goodness of the people and families I represent in Ramsey and Washington counties. The challenges ahead are many, but so are the opportunities to work hard, solve problems, find common ground and restore faith and trust in our precious democracy.